6 Sep 2017

Directed by: Andrés Muschietti
Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, Finn Wolfhard
Release date: September 8th, 2017
Running time: 2 Hours 15 Mins

You don’t choose your nightmares. They choose you

A group of bullied kids band together when a monster, taking the appearance of a clown, begins hunting children.

With the trailer being viewed 197 million times in its first 24 hours, beating the previous record held by The Fate of the Furious, it’s fair to say that the fevered anticipation for the latest re-imagining of Pennywise is less to do with Stephen King’s 1100 page doorstop novel, than Tim Curry’s masterful performance in the 1990 mini-series.

Introducing an entire generation to Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) to the point where this version of the film is set to be picketed by the World Clown Association due to fears that adverse publicity surrounding the film’s killer clown Pennywise, will lead to cancelled bookings for its members.

The remake manages to retain the best parts of both the book and the mini-series which, viewed in hindsight, drags whenever Curry’s terrifying Harlequin is not on screen.

Setting the film in 1989 allows director Andy Muschietti to give the film a beautiful, otherworldly yet grounded setting that the best King adaptors Rob Reiner (Stand by Me) and Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) have been able to capture. There is a sense of menace in the mundane that is extremely unsettling, the town of Derry is as much a character as the Losers Club themselves.

Speaking of which, the charismatic children at the forefront of the film have a depth and understanding that breathes life to each of their characters.

It’s refreshing to hear kids actually act like real kids, not just mini adults with endless heroism and an unbreakable moral compass. They are vulnerable, each facing their own struggle with some confronting real life monsters every bit as evil as the dancing clown. They are kids who find strength and comfort in friendship that they don’t find in family and it’s this bond that makes them a threat to Bill Skarsgård’s Pennywise.

Faced with the impossible task of trying to reinvent such an iconic performance, Skarsgård does the smart thing, he doesn’t. Instead he almost mirrors the deadlier side of Curry’s performance, stripping down the humour to the point he is almost mute and instead expressing himself through menacing eyes and a spine tingling grin.

Recognising that this isn’t a character like the Joker so seeped into public consciousness that you can create vastly different takes, Pennywise is what the people are coming to see and he gives them exactly what they want. He is creepily subtle at times, racking up the tension to almost unbearable levels before exploding into terrifying bouts of viciousness that keeps the audience on their toes.

In all aspects IT is a success. There isn’t a hint of the troubled production that saw both director (True Detective’s Cary Fukunaga) and star (Will Poulter) drop out shortly before filming. It looks stunning, with the tense, nerve shredding atmosphere created with masterful use of light and shadow as opposed to obnoxious gore (although it’s not lacking there either).

IT is a lesson in how effective horror can be when you create characters people care about as opposed to simply being used as victims.  It’s the best event horror movie in years. It doesn’t live up to the original, it exceeds it.

4 out of 5

Andy McCarroll


SPIN facts:

- Stranger Things creators The Duffer Brothers pitched Warner Bros their own version of “IT” but were turned down as they were “not established enough”

- In the book Pennywise, or IT, returns to prey on the children every 27 years. It’s been 27 years since the TV version. 

For more from Andy McCarroll and the latest in movie news and reviews tune into “We Love Movies” at 11:45 on Sunday mornings.